US Open: Serena Williams beats Maria Sakkari to make US Open quarter-finals
American comes though 6-3 6-7 (6-8) 6-3 to reach last eight and is three wins from matching Margaret Court's total
Last Updated: 08/09/20 7:18am
Serena Williams remains on course for a record-equalling 24th Grand Slam singles title after coming through an epic fourth-round contest to beat Maria Sakkari.
Williams, won won her first US Open more than 20 years ago, stormed to the first set in a little over half an hour but her opponent dug deep and, perhaps inspired by her victory in the pair's last meeting two weeks ago, Sakkari edged a thrilling second set tie-break to force the decider.
US Open - Women's Singles
|Quarter-Finals||Jennifer Brady (28) vs Yulia Putintseva (23)|
|Naomi Osaka (4) vs Shelby Rogers|
|Tsvetana Pironkova vs Serena Williams (2)|
|Victoria Azarenka vs Elise Mertens (16)|
It was the Greek 15th seed who struck the first blow, breaking in the third set only for Williams to break back and go on to break again in the eighth game to serve out the match.
Williams turns 39 in less than a month and is without a Grand Slam singles title since the Australian Open in 2017, but she is the favourite to claim the crown having advanced to a showdown with Tsvetana Pironkova.
"Of course I thought about it but it's a completely different match and a completely different moment," Williams said in her post-match interview on court when asked about the defeat to Sakkari.
"I just kept fighting. She was doing so well, she was being so aggressive, and I knew I needed to do the same thing."
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At the Western & Southern Open, Sakkari got the better of a tiring Williams, who was dealing with leg cramps and faded down the stretch, but not this time as the six-time singles champion at Flushing Meadow rose to the challenge.
She had been two points from victory at 6-6 in the second set tie-break before Sakkari hit back, but Williams had the final say and remains on course to go one better than 2018 and 2019 US Opens when she was beaten in the final on both occasions.
But Williams is as determined as they come and as she roared her way through the closing stages, she was happy to underline that commitment.
"I feel like I'm pretty vocal with or without a crowd, I'm super passionate, this is my job.
"This is what I wake up to do, this is what I train to do, 365 days of the year. I'm always going to bring that fire and that passion, and that Serena to the court.
"I always compete, competing and having a good attitude, I think, is what I'm most satisfied about."
Unseeded Pironkova will be next to try and stop Williams' quest after the Bulgarian continued her own dream run with a 6-4 6-7 (7-5) 6-3 win over Alize Cornet.
The former Wimbledon semi-finalist is playing in her first tournament in three years, having taken a break following the birth of her first child. But playing under her protected ranking, she has dazzled in New York to reach the last eight for the first time in her career.
Pironkova, who had already beaten two-time Grand Slam champion Garbine Muguruza and 18th seed Donna Vekic in New York, was given her toughest test so far but came through in almost three hours of thrilling action.
The 32-year-old was at her aggressive best as she fired 46 winners past Cornet and won 21 points at the net.
Cornet mounted a comeback in the second set as fatigue started to set in for Pironkova, who failed to serve for the match twice but was third time lucky in the final set when she sealed victory.
Victoria Azarenka's resurgence continued as she booked her first Grand Slam quarter-final appearance since 2016.
She came from behind to beat 20th seed Karolina Muchova 5-7 6-1 6-4.
"I am so grateful for the opportunity to play, it is such a difficult time for everyone in the world," she said. "I don't take anything for granted, I want to enjoy every day as best I can, it has been a great time.
"I am super grateful and I am really happy to be here. It is another amazing opportunity, being in the quarter-final of a Grand Slam, I am really happy I am here."
Azarenka will meet 16th seed Elise Mertens, who ended Sofia Kenin's dreams of winning back-to-back majors.
"It means a lot, a lot is going on in the world and I am glad to be back playing matches and doing what I love," the Belgian said.